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By the power of Krypton! I have the power! – Superman Annual #10

September 4, 2011

It looks like Superman picked up some pointers during his stay on Eternia.

Let me get one thing out of the way. I continue to adore Curt Swan, even when he’s roughing it with questionable content. I thank Rao that he pencilled roughly 1.5 billion Superman comics in his career, so many that it sometimes seems that he’s still churning them out. He’s the best (and even better when teamed with, as he is here, Murphy Anderson). And that shall be the extent of my Swan adulation for the day.

The comic? This is a good one. Silly. Utterly unlikely. Maybe even stupid. But good.

The genesis (perhaps that should be capitalized) of this Elliot S! Maggin-scripted tale (“The Day the Cheering Stopped”) goes back to the very beginning of the universe, when astral bodies were formed, including a chunk of rock that eventually makes for one of the largest coincidences ever:

Yes. A sword congeals out of the cosmic dust, complete with S-symbol. And we also learn that it becomes known as “The Sword of Superman.” Even though there wasn’t a Superman yet. Just go with it I guess.

Somehow, someway, Superman has to get to space for this collision course with wackiness. To that end, an arrogant Donald Trump wannabe stows away in a space shuttle, and Supes goes to retrieve him. I’m gratified to learn that not all Kryptonian encounters with at-work astronauts were disastrous:

Long story short, the stow-away mogul gets possessed by an old foe of Superman’s (King Kosmos) and gains powers in the process. He soon bests the Man of Steel, who in turn stumbles onto the blade he was apparently born to wield:

Things got a little Aeon Flux-y there in that last panel.

The sword doesn’t really do all that much for him, and to top it all off, poor Superman is now an outcast on Earth. See, Kosmos has hypnotized humanity to see him as a disgusting, dangerous alien (surely dinging deep sections of Kal-El’s id). So what does the sword do to help the big guy? Why, take him to the library, of course!:

Somewhere on the Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton is smiling. That said, there isn’t very much of a reason for this little narrative cul-de-sac, other than to point out that King Arthur was the only one who could use Excalibur, and the same goes for Superman and his new toy. Thanks. Got it.

Whatever the motive for that little jaunt, the sword still isn’t helping him with his image problem:

Okay, that’s kind of funny.

In the face of this scorn our hero retreats like a picked-on little girl. He’s developed some Grade A anxiety issues over his rejection (perhaps an Amish shunning could be added to the Kryptonite and red sun weaknesses), so he spends a little time meditating on the moon. While Superman is getting in touch with his inner hero, Kosmos (still in the guise of the mogul) arranges to address a joint session of Congress to help further his Earthly power. Not so fast, buster:

Superman has hypnotized himself to overcome his feelings of rejection, and the sword (finally) does something useful by breaking Kosmos’ psychic hold over humanity. A brawl ensues on the National Mall (almost toppling the as-I-write-this earthquake-cracked Washington Monument) which Superman wins. Then he starts getting a little carried away:

He actually did come really close to the He-Man line. Huh.

The sword begins to fill him with nigh-limitless energy and power, but Superman reacts as we would expect him to when offered omnipotence:

The jigsaw effect fades and the blade of the sword disappears. Superman casts the hilt into space, and there the Earth portion of our story ends. Then we have an epilogue, as a future storyteller recounts the story of the Sword of Superman, and this gives us a little more insight into what happened when Superman renounced its power:

I guess the voice could be Jor-El, but I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think it’s God. So Superman is Space-Sword Jesus or something.

There are times when I love comics with every fiber of my being.

Maggin spun many a fun yarn, and this one is no exception. The thought of a Superman-themed sword — one forged at the beginning of time, mind you — floating around in space like the 2001 monolith is so preposterously silly, one can’t help but love it. Or maybe one can. I can’t. And I truly appreciate his willingness to back off (as in the sequence where Superman grabs the sword) and let the art tell the story. Not feeling the need to do it all is the mark of someone who knows what they’re doing, know what I mean?

This was a good time. And here’s hoping the Hubble keeps its lenses peeled for any drifting swords out there among Carl Sagan’s “billions and billions of stars.”

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